( dpa ) - Prosecutors in Naples said Friday they want former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to stand trial for allegedly attempting to bribe a state television official into offering roles to five actresses.
Prosecutor Vincenzo Piscitelli requested that Berlusconi and the suspended head of RAI television's fiction series division, Agostino Sacca, stand trial on corruption charges based on intercepted telephone conversations, the ANSA news agency reported.
The conversations suggested Berlusconi had offered to support Sacca with some personal business activities if the actresses were hired by RAI, according to prosecutors.
The allegations against Berlusconi first surfaced in December when Rome daily La Repubblica published leaked excerpts of the intercepted conversations between the head of Italy's centre-right opposition and Sacca.
Berlusconi at the time denied any wrongdoing adding "everyone knows you either have to prostitute yourself or need someone to put in a good word for you to get certain jobs at RAI."
Sacca who was subsequently suspended by RAI also denied any wrongdoing.
On Thursday the chief spokesman of Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, Paolo Bonaiuti condemned the prosecutor's trial request.
"The usual sections of the politicized judiciary are trying in vain to tarnish the image of the leader of the opposition with ridiculous allegations," Bonaiuti said.
According to La Repubblica's report, the intercepted telephone conversations suggested Berlusconi was championing the actresses on behalf of a centre-left senator who the former premier was trying to persuade to cross the floor in parliament and join the opposition.
Some of the actresses were allegedly acquaintances of the senator, Nino Randazzo, a resident of Melbourne, Australia elected to the senate, Italy's upper house of parliament from a voters roll reserved for Italians living abroad.
Randazzo confirmed Berlusconi had approached him for help to bring down Prime Minister Romano Prodi - an offer the senator said he declined - but said "we didn't talk about money so I don't see any corruption in penal terms."
Berlusconi, Italy's richest man and owner of the country's main private television channels has been the subject of several legal cases over the years.
Most of the charges were dropped when laws de-penalizing the crimes he had been accused of were introduced during his two stints in government or in other cases, when the statute of limitations expired.